Forget me not

wineThe buzzing started to quiet down and the haziness that seemed to blur my vision cleared away slowly, leaving behind a mild curiosity, a feeling of bewilderment at where I was and what I was doing.

I stretched lazily and stifled a yawn and blinked as I took in my surroundings and shook the fog from my mind.

Acrid smoke, musty bookshelves, burnt leather apron, glass vials and tubes… the laboratory.

Still more than a little confused as to why I was so sleepy and seemingly unaware of how I ended up in the lab, the serenity that followed waking was rapidly replaced by a rising panic that sharpened my senses and brought me to my feet with a resounding crash as the chair I had been sleeping on was thrown backwards into the wall.

Fully alert, wide-eyed and in in control of my faculties I stared around the lab for clues as to what had transpired before I woke. There was nothing to indicate anything unusual on the desk where I had clearly slumbered, stretched over various parchments and little paper sachets of various mineral and other content.

“What day is it today?” I wondered as I took in the labels on the little paper sachets, salt, willow bark, potassium, wheat germ?

“What was I working on?”

As I trailed my gaze over the workbench I started to see obvious patterns that had escaped me before, the willow bark sachet was mostly empty and was not properly sealed, the potassium sachet was clearly crumpled and there was an empty beaker with some dried scale remnants still clinging to the sides.

I decided to stop worrying, that it would all come back to me and headed out to the dormitory.

As I walked I took in the sights and smells, allowing them to permeate my senses in a way that seemed more real than I had ever noticed before. I seemed to be infused with a healthy dose of life, seeing vivid colours in everything I looked at and hearing with an alarming clarity.

As I neared the dorms, I saw Jeune sitting on the steps, head in hands.

My cheerful greeting is met by a blank faced stare and then a wide smile spreads of his face as he leaps up and throws his arms around me.

“Where have you been? We’ve all been so worried about you!”

“Where have I been? I was actually going to ask you something similar! I woke up in the lab in section 4 about an hour ago with no memory of what I had been doing to get there.”

“In the lab?” Jeune’s raucous laughter startled me and I stepped back confused.

“What’s so funny? I am having a bit of a panic because I have no idea how long I slept or how I ended up there!”

Jeune looked me full in the face with a broad smile and said simply “Come with me.”

With that he turned and raced back up the steps shouting for Thoom and Gandy who were likely milling about somewhere close.

As I started up the stairs I saw them emerge from the dormitory, looking for who had called them and locking eyes with me they both immediately started towards me. They were a few steps down when Jeune went bounding towards them jabbering away, too far for me to hear but clearly about me as he kept pointing at me and they started walking towards me again.

We met on the steps and Thoom and Gandy were clearly happy to see me though the frenetic excitement that had Jeune beaming all over the show didn’t seem to have them in its grasp.

Gandy grabbed me by the shoulders and said “You don’t remember anything? Not a single thing?”

I told him that I could remember everything, just not what had happened in the lead up to my waking in the lab. I told him I remembered everything from the previous day, going to class, reading from the old tomes in the religious studies section of the library, I just couldn’t remember where I couldn’t remember from. There didn’t seem to be much missing…

All three young men started chuckling and Thoom started talking in his gravelly voice – “Yesterday, the yesterday you are talking about when you went to the library to study old gods, that was two days ago!”

After that they all started talking, leaving me more and more amazed as the events unfurled.

It seemed that I had been trawling though ancient literature about long forgotten religions and I had stumbled across a god who was worshipped through drinking huge amounts of wine. The prospect of a god who had permeated the very seat of cultural acceptance had intrigued me and as my friends and I had sat having our evening meal, we had started to speak about the ancient deity.

The more we spoke, the more wine we drank and the more wine we drank, the more we spoke until at some point in the evening we had all been so drunk we had been unable to do much more than pour more wine.

At that point, the wine had begun to pour itself and I had called out to the ancient god to see if he still endured and then everything got weird.

Jeune told me that the wine casket we had been pouring from had started to glow, Gandy said that the whole room lit up and Thoom told me he could hear women singing gay ditties, all the while I was encased in a sparkling nimbus that had them wondering if there had been some of those red cap mushrooms in the meal we’d eaten.

The god, as it turned out, had not been dead and had in fact remained fairly powerful and had been overjoyed to hear his name spoken so many times and had chosen to come and bestow a great gift upon me for bringing his name back to the light of day.

“It would be a great gift if I knew what it was!” I said miserably.

Thoom reached out and passed me a wineskin and told me that the god said that I would have to drink wine when I returned.

I took the skin, put it to my lips and pulled a draught into my mouth and everything that had happened came back in a howling, powerful rage of ecstasy…

[important]Please help me improve my work by letting me know what you thought! I really do value feedback, especially at this early stage in my writing development as this is the first non-work related fictional piece I have written in over 20 years![/important]

8 thoughts on “Forget me not”

  1. I enjoyed reading this, Barry! You write very well. I like how descriptive you are and how you keep me wanting to read further. You keep a healthy air of mystery about the whole story. I love how, at the end of the piece, I feel as if I ‘m left with a real sense of what the character is experiencing.

    Keep writing!

    1. Thanks Kris
      I have loads of work to do though… got some great feedback from some Redditors that I will look at for my next piece :)

  2. Hi Barrulus,

    I liked your story. As Kris said, the descrptions were very good and you started at an interesting place.

    There were a couple of things that I might raise as constructive criticism though. After the first sentence in paragraph four, you have a very long running sentence. You may have done it on purpose to aid the sense of rushing, in which case it does. On the other hand, there are a few places with very long sentences further down, and they just seem to read awkwardly to me. One tip I always try is to read the story outl oud to myself; that really highlights things that might be stretched a little (although I frequently forget to do this myself lol.)

    I also felt a little disapointed that the explanation of what happened in the lab was recounted in an almost trivial way. I understand that it was after the event but maybe the conversation between the main character and his friends could have taken place with dialogue rather than simply telling it in narrative?

    I hope that has been of some use. They are small issues but as I said, I liked your overall story, style and descrption :). Good stuff.

    1. Thank you so much for that Casey!

      Thanks for the tip on long sentences :)
      With a ~1000 word limit I found myself trying to cram too much into too short a word count.
      This is also what I found when explaining the events that unfurled with his friends.
      In the end it looks as though I have taken too much of a short cut and just dumped the story to cut it off in time.
      Having a chat with someone on reddit (http://www.reddit.com/r/writing/comments/15u6j0/forget_me_not_a_flash_fiction_story_of_1000_words/), I have agreed to rewrite with less time spent on the buildup of tension and more one the actual event…
      Thanks again for the feedback, very helpful!

  3. I chuckled at him lamenting that it’d be a great gift if he knew what it was. The opening is very passive, written on clear stilts, but especially in my frame of mind, worn out from a hospital visit and a pint low on blood, I really dug it. Hit me in absolutely the right mood to be discombobulated, and strung me through the early paragraphs enough that I made it to the list of odd materials. Those were a splendid hook to take me into the rest of the piece.

  4. If you haven’t written much in last two decades then well done indeed. There is a lot to keep the reader interested here which could easily develop into a longer story. Perhaps a little heavy on the description which could be balanced with more action. It’s the old show/tell ratio thing.

    1. Thanks!
      Yeah, the common feedback thread is that it’s a little heavy on the intro and light on the action though discussing it has given me a new way to approach the same story so I have that in the works :)

      And yes, I think this could definitely be a longer story, I already have an entire world in my imagination, the biggest challenge for me is reigning that in and keeping to the flash fiction size of ~1000 words…

      Thanks again for the wonderful compliment :)

  5. Baz, a few thoughts. Keep or sweep. I liked the idea behind this very much. I thought the intro (first five paras) was too wordy. I liked what it said but it took a long time to say it. The set-up in the middle is great and (like John Wiswell) I love the ‘if I only knew what it was’ line. That is an absolute keeper. The pay-off (last para) was fine. Do you think it could be better? Instead of ‘everything came back’ could you be more suggestive? ‘She’ came back? The ‘sirens’ came back? ‘When she was alive’ came back?

    Some silly ideas at the end of a long shift! Liko mucho – keep at it!

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